After working at Amazon.com for many years, Nadia Shouraboura wanted an experience for customers that embodied the positives of both online and in-store shopping. Her concept, called Hointer, enables customers to complete a shopping transaction solely with their smart phones, from picking out a style to trying on merchandise to paying for the purchase.
Hointer is located in Seattle and consists of a minimalistic space of plain and unimposing walls, floors and fixtures. The merchandise is the design star. Just one size of each individual item is displayed, eliminating clutter.
Fixtures – such as hangers made from magnets and mobile display bars – are minimal installations because there’s so little real merchandise on the floor. The fixtures are also easily movable, so Shouraboura and her team keep things fresh by changing the floor practically every day. Additionally, software developers update code and ensure the tech-side of the operation is running smoothly. The magic behind the store is a simple set of APIs, or application programming interfaces, which are able to retrieve requested items immediately. Cross-platform smart phone and tablet apps drive the APIs to securely process payment; the store itself is driven remotely by computing-cloud-based proxies.
When customers find a pair of jeans to try on, using their smart phones, they either “tap” the tag or scan a QR code. Their phone then directs them to a designated dressing room where the item comes through a chute in their requested size. What if the jeans don’t fit? Unwanted merchandise can be thrown down one of two chutes and when a new size is requested using the phone app, new jeans will come out of the opposite chute within 30 seconds.
At the end of the fitting, putting merchandise down the designated chute clears it from their virtual shopping cart. To purchase an item, guests can walk out if they’re a returning customer or, if they’re a first-time visitor, quickly swipe a credit card.
Shouraboura describes the benefit of this system for other retailers: “It’s cheaper, an easier way to display items and you can put more product in a small square footage. The best part is that most customers told us that they loved the experience and had fun shopping. I absolutely feel like it’s my mission to change the shopping experience.”